Cancer Surviving Children Show Delays In Cognitive And Motor Skills
According to new study which was published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, toddlers and infants who were treated for cancer show a delay in cognitive and motor skills, compared with healthy children of same age. Researchers observed that the delays in development stages appear in first stages of cancer therapy and for this reason children with cancer, in addition to specific therapy should benefit from physical and language therapy.
Scientists observed that children treated for cancer before age of 4 years presented a delay in cognitive function such as attention and memory, in vocabulary and in motor skills, compared with healthy children of same age. It was also observed that social and emotional development or playing ability was not influenced, because the way in which these children interact with their parents or the capacity to engage in make-believe games, such as serving tea or cooking, skills that normally develop between 12 and 18 months were unaffected.
This study is very important because nowadays survival rates in pediatric cancers have increased and for this reason quality of life of this children should be similar to a healthy person.
In this study were included 61 children aged between 6 months and 3.5 years, who were were treated for hematological cancers. Average age of diagnosis was 19 months and average period of anticancer therapy was 3 months. Researchers were interested in evaluating cognitive, emotional and motor skills development of this children and for this actions they used a series of assessments:
- To identify a toy by name it, which reflects the capacity to understand language;
- A age-related tests that reflects cognitive development which include the ability to pay attention, to memorize and to classify objects;
- Children ability to walk, crawl or sit up, actions that reflects gross-motor skills and the assessment of fine-motor skills which are reflected by realization of precise movements like using a fork.
Scientists also studied the way that this children are enrolled in playing activities with their mothers, which mainly reflects social and emotional development. In this actions researchers were interested in the level of involvement in playing, in rate of responsiveness and in the ability to explore new toys or in the capacity to engage in make-believe games. Mothers were interviewed about language ability of their children and about children’s behavior before and after anticancer treatment.
The findings showed that children treated for cancer presented a delay in language, cognitive and motor skills compared with healthy children of same age, because this children scored 7 points below healthy children in tests of mental development and 14 points below healthy children in motor skills testes. Scientists did not found differences in social and emotional skills.
“It’s important to stress that we documented a broad range of scores. Every child’s experience is different. Some were nearly on target for achieving milestones, some were far behind. The key message, however, is that parents and health care professionals should realize that such delays are a real potential, and they should be factored into decisions on the care a child receives. We’ve demonstrated that the impact of the disease and its treatment can appear early on. It suggests that the earlier health care providers start addressing these concerns, the better.”, researchers said.
This study shows that for a higher quality of life in pediatric cancer survivors therapy through social interaction should begin early in cancer treatment and not to wait until cancer is in remission, as most practitioners consider is indicated. Scientists consider that this research should lead to future studies to determine if therapy through social interaction should be applied after first round of chemotherapy.